Imagine A Midsummer Night’s Dream peopled by puppets that swoop around and amongst the actors as shadow characters! This was how I first came across the Handspring Puppet Company at Johannesburg’s Market Theatre. The company, established in Cape Town by Adrian Kohler and Basil Jones, draws its inspiration from the West African tradition of puppetry for adults. In the late 1990s, their production of Ubu and the Truth Commission, in collaboration with the South African artist William Kentridge – whose achievements include his production’s of Shostakovich’s The Nose and Berg’s Lulu at the Metropolitan Opera – toured to the Kennedy Center in D.C. It was here, about a decade later, that I saw their award winning designs of the life-sized horse puppets in War Horse, and sat there quite overwhelmed, not only by emotion for these beautiful creatures, each animated by three actors, but also by compatriot pride at the wondrous achievement of Adrian and Basil’s work.
Now, the Handspring Puppet Company is collaborating with the Wolf Trap Foundation, Ravinia Festival, Hollywood Bowl, The Mann Center, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and Sun Valley Summer Symphony on a production of Stravinsky’s Firebird. It will be on at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap this Saturday, July 23 at 8:15 pm. Guess where I will be! I hope you will be too.
Tags:Firebird, Igor Stravinsky, Wolf Trap